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Early Intervention Advocacy Takes RHSC to the NYS Capitol

On Tuesday, February 13th, a bus filled with parents and providers as well as advocates from the nonprofit groups Kids Can’t Wait NYS and Parents Helping Parents Coalition of Monroe County headed to Albany to take part in Early Intervention Advocacy Day. This trip, organized by nonprofit group, The Children’s Agenda, had one collective goal: meet with as many of our legislators as possible to urge them to increase the reimbursement rates for providers in the state’s Early Intervention program by 11%.

Women on bus
RHSC's Director of Education & Clinical Services, Beth McLellan and Marketing & Development Specialist, Ann Kabel on their way to Albany for Early Intervention Advocacy Day

 Among those who boarded the bus in the pre-dawn hours were Rochester Hearing & Speech Center’s Director of Education & Clinical Services, Beth McLellan, and Marketing & Development Specialist, Ann Kabel, who had the opportunity to meet with representatives from NYS Senator and Chair of Committee on Education, Shelley Mayer’s office, as well as with Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi. Their discussions prioritized three key topics:


1.     With Early Intervention (EI) reimbursement rates lower than they were 30 years ago, an increase of 11% is needed for all EI services delivered in person. Because reimbursement rates are so low, there is a significant shortage of EI providers for our children with disabilities and special needs. Quite simply, providers can't afford to work in Early Intervention while taking care of their families. Professionals in clinical fields like Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy are instead choosing to work in school districts or in hospitals where they can make more money.

2.     Reform the methodology for Early Intervention reimbursement rates. The State needs to reimagine its formula that has been in place since the mid-1990s to determine payment for all evaluations, services, and service coordination.

3.     Creation of a student loan forgiveness program to attract new Early Intervention providers to the field. An incentive is needed to recruit new professionals who are willing to provide in-person EI services in medically underserved and/or healthcare provider shortage areas.

A man and woman looking at notes
Beth McLellan discussing the 11% reimbursement rate increase with Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi.

People in a meeting
Our meeting with staff from Senator Mayer's office to discuss our three key topics for Early Intervention

 Also making the trip to the Capitol was parent advocate, Lynn Mordenga whose son, Timothy, has been receiving services at RHSC and is now three years old. We had the opportunity to discuss what their journey with Early Intervention has been like and why she was with us that day.


“After seven months of waiting, he [Timothy] got a physical therapist that works with Rochester Hearing & Speech and that was our first kind of realization how much Early Intervention really worked for him and how much it was able to [help] him meet his developmental milestones. He just became more confident, and became more lively, even just with 30 minutes of EI once a week with physical therapy," says Lynn. Unfortunately, Timothy never received the individual speech-therapy he was eligible to receive due to a shortage of Speech-Language Pathologists in the area before he aged out of Early Intervention.

"But he continues to see his occupational therapist and physical therapist through RHSC with the preschool support services he does get," Lynn continues. "I hope that RHSC continues to be an EarIy Intervention provider, especially because they are the only one in Monroe County that continues to provide EarIy Intervention services, which is so needed especially at this time.”


So what impact did this year’s Early Intervention Advocacy Day have on our lawmakers? According to Brigit Hurley, Chief Program Officer at The Children’s Agenda, “I think we did really well. There’s definitely a lot of support for more resources for Early Intervention”, Hurley says. “What was different was that we had a lot more people with us. So that’s bringing the awareness up to an even different level. The next thing we need to do is keep communicating, particularly with the Legislative branch because they need to put a rate increase in their budgets. And if they do that, then we’ll have all three parties at the budget table; the governor, the Assembly and the Senate, supporting more resources for Early Intervention and Early Intervention families, and that’s the only way we’re going to succeed, if they all agree this has got to happen in 2024. And I feel optimistic, and I have not felt this way, to be honest, in previous years.”

People standing in office building
Kim Dooher, Vice President of Parents Helping Parents Coalition of Monroe County; Lynn Mordenga, parent advocate; Beth McLellan, Director of Education & Clinical Services at RHSC and Brigit Hurley, Chief Program Officer at The Children's Agenda along with other advocates met with Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi on Tuesday.

Over 500 children in Monroe County are reported to have been on the waitlist to receive Early Intervention services for over 30 days, which is the deadline for children to receive the services they are legally entitled to. 


What do we do next? Help us by contacting your Assemblymember and State Senator. Tell them they need to support the 11% rate increase in the upcoming budget so that our kids can get the Early Intervention services they need. Please visit this link and take a couple minutes to make your voice heard:  


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